Thousands of Christmas ornaments that will adorn the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree have poured in from communities across Alaska. Alaska Geographic and Chugach National Forest staff members and volunteers are hard at work packing up these ornaments, which will soon be sent to Washington D.C.
The ornament project had multiple objectives; 1) to bring communities together to celebrate Alaska, and 2) to share with the American people the many ecosystems, landscapes, cultures, groups, and individuals that make our state so vibrant and unique! These goals were accomplished beyond anyone’s expectations. It is incredible to see the talent, care, and creativity that went into the creation of thousands of ornaments that beautifully represent the state of Alaska.
From Polynesian masks made from recycled milk jugs that celebrate the Samoan, Tongan, Hawaiian and other Polynesian cultures that thrive in Anchorage, to rabbit-skin drum ornaments created by youth and elders from the Kenaitze Indian Tribe of the Kenai Peninsula (where the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will come from), to marine debris ornaments from Kodiak Island that raise awareness of the issue of ocean pollution – the submissions are truly representative of Alaska’s diversity.
We created an ornament tracker so the public can see where the ornaments are from and learn more about the communities and artists who submitted them. Click here to view the interactive map!
Some highlights from across the state…
The Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum in Nome held an ornament workshop for junior high and high school students. Students, staff, and volunteers created historic photograph ornaments with colorful embellishments and sewed fur ornaments with beaded decorations. This workshop was co-led by Sam, a high school student who had participated in our NPS Nome Archaeology Camp this past summer. After enjoying the camp so much, Sam sought out an internship with the McLain Memorial Museum so he could continue his archaeological endeavors.
Students in Tatitlek, a community in Prince William Sound (nestled in the Chugach National Forest), made fantastic owl-themed ornaments at the Tatitlek School. When asked, “What do you want people to know about Tatitlek when they see your ornament for the Capitol Christmas Tree?” Students responded with many wonderful sentiments including, “Tatitlek is a small yet wonderful place. It’s very small, the community is close and everyone helps everyone.” and “We catch lots of fish and there are lots of deer and lots of seal.”
Led by Kodiak-based artist Bonnie Dillard and Chugach Children’s Forest alumni Deborah, Kodiak residents created incredible ocean-themed ornaments utilizing recycled materials, sea glass, and marine debris to create their designs. In addition to celebrating the importance of ocean ecosystems to Alaskans, these ornaments raise awareness of the issue of marine debris, which washes up on Kodiak in surprising amounts.
(Image courtesy of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe)
The Kenaitze Indian Tribe, a community of about 1,600 people in Kenai, Alaska, provided more than 200 ornaments for the tree. Indian Country Today Media Network recently featured an article about the Kenaitze tribe’s involvement, highlighting the fact that the Lutz Spruce that will be harvested to become the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will come from their ancestral homelands on the Chugach National Forest. The article reports, “About 50 tribal members gathered for a three-day ornament-making marathon, Lindgren said. Generations of Kenaitze worked side-by-side, with elders teaching youths how to use traditional ulu knives to cut rabbit skin for use on the ornaments.”